Treatment for Personality Disorders in Teens and Young Adults

Different types of therapy are used to help a teen work through their issues, realize how they affect others, and manage their urges to avoid conflict. Therapists first encourage teens to become aware of their thoughts and behaviors, creating an awareness from which changes can be made.

Teen and young adult personality disorders are characterized by a variety of behaviors and thoughts that are unhealthy, and often dangerous to their health or someone else’s. Teen and young adult personality disorders are complex and divided into many types and subtypes, based on specific thoughts, behaviors, and coexisting symptoms. These individuals’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are often very different from social expectations and because of that, often cause friction with others. Because teens and young adults aren’t necessarily aware that their thoughts and behaviors are very different from normal, they may not be aware that their thoughts are unnatural, or they may not recognize that they have a personality disorder.

What Do Personality Disorders Look Like?

There are several different types of personality disorders, each of which include specific symptoms. Personalities are, by nature, highly variable. Despite the oxymoron, it’s normal to be different – most people possess some unique quality or quirk, and there are many factors that contribute to developing a teen’s personality into something individual. There is a difference between being eccentric and struggling with a mental health issue. Personality disorders are not just little quirks or inconsistencies, or troubling behavior. Teens and young adults are often troubling and inconsistent, as they are still growing and exploring their thoughts and boundaries. But if their behavior is clearly unhealthy, chronic, and the cause of many issues – especially among peers and at home – then they may be struggling with more than just early adulthood or phase of life issues.

The Different Types of Types of Teen & Young Adult Personality Disorders

Borderline Personality Disorder – Teen and young adult borderline personality disorders are characterized by trouble forming and maintaining healthy, lasting relationships, because of compulsive and unpredictable behavior. These behaviors are often linked to the teen fearing abandonment

Narcissistic Personality Disorder – Teens and young adults with narcissistic personality disorder view themselves as superior to others and yet, at the same time, need the praise and affection of others, to affirm their opinions of their high standing.  In this sense, what can appear like a big ego is actually a delicate state, stemming from a lack of self-esteem.  These people, in concentrating so much on themselves, tend to seem unconcerned with the thoughts and feelings of others.

Antisocial Personality Disorder – Teens and young adults with antisocial personality disorder are incapable of processing concepts of privacy in others, intruding on and violating the rights of other people. They will often act impulsively and against social norms, without a care for other people.

Histrionic Personality Disorder – Histrionic personality disorder is characterized by excessive attention-seeking behavior, as well as very emotional reactions. Teens and young adults with histrionic personality disorder will feel uncomfortable not being the center of attention and will often do things to call attention to themselves.

Dependent Personality Disorder – Teens and young adults with dependent personality disorder have difficulty operating independently, and often depend upon someone else for help making decisions and taking care of themselves.  In connection with their strong need and reliance upon others, they often have an extreme fear of abandonment and being alone.

Avoidant Personality Disorder – Teens and young adults with avoidant personality disorder are unnaturally introverted, going out of their way to avoid social interaction out of fear and strong feelings of inadequacy. They are extremely sensitive to criticism and often believe people are constantly criticizing them in secret. They believe any social interaction is likely to lead to rejection and embarrassment.

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder – Teens and young adults with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder struggle with a diagnosis that is different from OCD. OCD is a form of anxiety expressed through compulsive behavior, meant to appease some form of obsessive thought, such as a fear revolving around lights or germs. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is characterized by extreme perfectionism, and an inability to deviate from a schedule, as well as an inability to ignore minute details that stand out as problematic. They will apply this perfectionism to their behavior and relationships, often to the detriment of their interactions with other people.

Paranoid Personality Disorder – Teens and young adults with paranoid personality disorder have a constant and overwhelming fear and mistrust of others, believing that people have ulterior motives.  These people feel a strong need to protect themselves from others and this distrust results in the distance they often maintain from others and in relationships.

Schizoid Personality Disorder – Those with schizoid personality disorder struggle with social relationships and emotional expression. They prefer to act alone, spend time alone, and are detached from others to the point of ignoring criticism. This detachment extends even to very personal or close relationships.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder – Schizotypal personality disorder is characterized by very strange or eccentric behavior, including highly distorted thinking and perception, discomfort in relationships with others, and problems putting two and two together, instead making leaps and coming to strange conclusions about things.

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What Are the Causes of Teen & Young Adult Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders are usually diagnosed based on long-term patterns of thinking and behavior, rather than spontaneously strange of eccentric behavior. A teen can have more than one personality disorder. To be diagnosed, they typically have to exhibit consistent patterns in thinking and behavior for more than one year. There are many different possible causes for personality disorders, including:

  • Brain disease
  • Coexisting mental health issues
  • Severe emotional trauma
  • Family history of personality disorders

How Can I Help My Teen or Young Adult With a Personality Disorder?

Parents and friends are crucial to helping teens and young adults cope with their personality disorder and continue managing their thoughts and behavior long after treatment is over. Often, psychotherapy involves teaching parents – and, optionally, friends – to watch out for specific sentences and speech structures and know how to react in a way that invokes what their loved ones already know about their condition.

Treating a personality disorder is not easy and managing both behaviors and thoughts to react “normally” can be difficult for teens and young adults. They rely on those around them to help them correct their behavior and adjust to what it’s like to think and act normally.

What Types of Teen and Young Adult Personality Disorder Treatments Are Available?


Primary treatment for personality disorders involve psychotherapy, or talk therapy. For therapy to be effective, it’s important to approach a client’s condition as part of a greater whole. Individual circumstances affect how a personality disorder manifests. Different types of therapy are used to help a teen or young adult work through their issues, realize how they affect others, and manage their urges to avoid conflict. Therapists first encourage clients to become aware of their thoughts and behaviors, creating an awareness from which changes can be made. Then, they help the teens and young adults to understand the effects that their behaviors have, both in their own lives, and in the lives of others.


Medication does not cure a personality disorder. However, in cases where teens or young adults also experience severe anxiety symptoms, or depressive thoughts – including suicidal thinking – medication such as antidepressants can help manage these symptoms where therapy fails.

Teen & Young Adult Personality Disorder Treatment at Paradigm Treatment

Treating a personality disorder starts with proper diagnosis and figuring out what other problems may exist. By offering a therapeutic environment designed to help teens and young adults express their problems and address their mental health issues, Paradigm Treatment not only utilizes psychotherapy, but considers the entire living space to be conducive towards helping a client address their issues. Staying at Paradigm Treatment can be a very social experience, giving teens and young adults the opportunity to learn how to interact with others in a way that is healthy and normal, and why.

Therapists can then begin working with the teens and young adults during personality disorder treatment to change those compulsive behaviors and bring about an awareness of their actions, as well as introducing healthy behaviors and practices that will help them grow. Therapists also help clients gain an ability to deal with stress and conflicts in their lives in healthy ways, so that they can learn to react intentionally and with control.

Understanding why their disorder can be abrasive towards others or even potentially lead to dangerous consequences is an important part of treatment. By recognizing what’s normal and what’s wrong, teens and young adults can begin correcting themselves without assistance.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen & Young Adult Personality Disorders

People with personality disorders are not necessarily more likely to behave more dangerously than others, but it can feel that way, because their behavior can seem so unpredictable. Statistically speaking, it’s more likely for a person with a personality disorder to physically harm themselves, rather than someone else. Because people with personality disorders often lack awareness of how they act, this can lead to problems in multiple areas of life. Therefore, seeking support and teen personality disorder treatment early on is so important.

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